Steer wrestling is an exciting discipline that has long been a part of the rodeo tradition. In the steering wrestling event, a mounted cowboy jumps off of his horse in to a steer and proceeds to wrestle the steer. The sport is dangerous and fast-paced and has historically been reserved for the toughest of cowboys.
Rodeos began informally during the 18th and 19th centuries. Spanish cattlemen taught their American counterparts traditions and skills needed for ranching cattle in the old west. Competitions began as casual challenges between neighboring ranches. Westward expansion spread the ranch traditions to the rest of the United States. As rodeos began to organize, many state and local fairs incorporated rodeos into their traditions.
Steer wrestling is thought to have been invented late 19th century. Bill Picket, who put on a 101 Ranch Wild West Show, is credited with the creation of the sport. Picket wrestled a wild steer to the ground. After that, steer wrestling was incorporated into Wild West shows and rodeos.
Steer Wrestling Format
Steer wrestling is a sport involving two cowboys. While one cowboy is the steer wrestler, the other rides along the side of the steer to ensure that the steer is riding in a straight path. Similar to many other rodeo sports, the steer begins the competition inside of a chute. The cowboy who will wrestle the steer is also called the bulldogger. While the steer waits in the chute, the bulldogger waits in the box. A barrier holds the steer and bulldogger in place. The steer is released from a spring-loaded chute. The steer is released and runs out into the arena on the cue of the bulldogger.
The second cowboy in steer wrestling is the hazer. The hazer is released with the steer and runs alongside it to ensure a straight path. The steer has a rope tied to it. When the steer runs the length of the rope away from the chute, the rope opens the gate for the bulldogger. The bulldogger then chases down the steer.
When the bulldogger is level with the steer, he will jump off of the horse and attempt to land on the steer. The cowboy grabs the horns of the steer and, feet planted, attempts to throw the horse on its side. Once the steer is on its side, the clock stops and the time is locked in. Typically, a good steer wrestling found will last 3 to 4 seconds. The winner is determined by a fraction of a second in this quick and exciting game. The current world record for steer wrestling is 2.4 seconds.
In one steer wrestling technique, the bulldogger pulls the steer down with one hand on each horn. The bulldogger dismounts from the horse once each hand is planted on a horn. The cowboy digs his heels into the ground to slow the steer and pull it to the ground. In another technique, the cowboy holds one horn with one hand and with the other hand holds on to the nose of the steer. The cowboy will throw off the steer’s balance and knock it to the ground.
One popular technique for dismounting the galloping horse is the slow transition. The cowboy will first shift the upper body weight to the steer’s neck. From that point, one hand is on the horn while the opposite elbow hooks around the opposite horse. The cowboy pulls his feet from the horse straight to the ground to slow the momentum of the speeding steer. With two hands on the horns, one hand pulls while the elbow is used for leverage to turn the head of the steer towards the ground.
Both horse and steer are traveling on the upshots of 30 miles per hour. As a result, jumping from the galloping requires a great deal of practice to perfect the skill. If the rider falls, there is no chance of scoring in this seconds-long competition. If the rider reaches for the steer as misses the horn, the results could be detrimental for that round of competition.
Steer Wrestling Horses
The horses most often used in rodeo events, including steer wrestling, are stock horses. The quarter horse is often a popular choice because of its speed, agility and turning ability. Stock horses are also used in rodeo events because of their intuitive cow sense. Cow sense is the horse’s ability to know where the steer is located and the best way to direct that steer’s movements. Both the bulldogger and the hazer’s horse need to have good cow sense to keep the steer under control and in the perfect position for a cowboy dismount.
Stock horses are very quick. Quarter horses were named for their ability to outrun other horse breeds in a race over a quarter mile. The quarter horse is not only quick, but it also has excellent acceleration out of the gate. Quarter horses can catch up the steer quickly and also use its body to herd the steer. Quarter horses are stocky and strong and are the natural choice for ranch activities.
Like an rodeo sport, the accepted attire for steer wrestling is western style clothing. Clean and crisp jeans are worn with a nice leather belt. Cowboys will wear western style shirts. These shirts are long-sleeved with a collar. Some western shirts are patterned, while other have studs or other silver accents that help them to look polished for competition. Cowboy boots are worn for style as well as safety. The heel on the cowboy boot helps the cowboy to stay in the saddle, but is small enough that the cowboy is able to release his foot from the stirrup, which is an essential step in dismounted the galloping horse. Cowboys must also wear a cowboy hat. Straw hats are sometimes acceptable for summer competitions, but felt hats are the hat of choice year-round.
Steer wrestling cowboys are usually larger in build, strong and brave. The sport of steer wrestling runs a high risk of injury for the participants, so the cowboys are generally unafraid to enter a competition with potential for pain. Steers can weigh anywhere from 500 to 700 pounds. Bulldoggers generally weigh between 180 and 300 pounds. The steer wrestlers must be big as well as strong. The horse is, of course, an essential teammate both in catching the steer quickly and in keeping the rider safe during the transition. If the rider and horse have a relationship of trust, the transitions will tend to far more smoothly.